Sunday Sermon Series
God tends to give us just the right Gospel text when we need it. This week i’ve been thinking – someone needs to take Matthew 5 and nail that bad boy the doors of the Supreme Court, the Halls of Congress, and the White House – America’s trinity – and pray we don’t lose our way by Tuesday. There is no part of the Gospel I love more than the Beatitudes. Because for me, one of the most fundemental ways to consider what it means to be a Christian in the world is to look to the question of What did Jesus value? Where and with whom, did Jesus spend most of his time?
And in today’s Gospel, Jesus doesn’t mince words. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God, he says. Even in his time, Jesus could feel and predict Rome’s penchance for twisting language and law in such a way as to blame the victim rather than the perpetrator, blame oppressed rather than oppressor, blame the foreigner rather than the citizen, blame the Jew rather than the Gentile, blame the low skilled essential worker rather than the corporation, blame the indigenous land defender, rather than the oil company, blame the Black life rather than the blue badge. Things are starting to look a bit like Rome, aren’t they?
Now if you’re anything like me, you may be prone to all or nothing thinking in times of upheaval. Bruce Lee once said “in times of duress, we do not rise to our expectations, but fall to our level of training.” For the all or nothing, either/or thinker, the most seductive path to righteousness would simply be to reverse the blame, flip the tables, and punish Jeff Bezos – the perennial punching bag of this off the rails experience we feel trapped within. What I learned in letting the beatitudes work their way into my life this week is that this temptation, this vengeful acting out may feel sexy in the moment, but it may not have Christ’s blessing.
Today, and always, Jesus invites us to do an honest and thorough analysis of power within ourselves, and our communities. To consider the ways power is wielded in our society to determine who gets a voice, and who doesn’t – who get’s health insurance, and who doesn’t – who gets autonomy over their own body, and who doesn’t – who gets to get married, and who doesn’t – who gets a tax break, and who doesn’t – who gets to vote, and who doesn’t – who gets to go for a jog, or sleep in their bed in peace, and who doesn’t – who feels the effects of global warming, and who doesn’t – who gets to breathe, and who doesn’t. Jesus invites us to think about the complex ways privilege and power, suppression and violence intersect in our lives, and the stories we have inherited.
Now, this isn’t about moral purity – we’re all walking contradictions who bring ourselves before God. Here, Jesus gives us a roadmap for living responsibly. We cannot serve two masters, and here we are reminded where to direct our efforts, not because we expect victory, acceptance, or salvation. Not because we intend to save someone, or even save ourselves. We simply do what we’ve been told to do.
We aid those whose humanity is at threatened because it is our humanity threatened – there is no separation. Christ through the cross lays his claim on suffering, and as Christians, we are called to respond.
The beatitudes help remind us that we have sworn off our earthly reward. We follow the word of a living God in part, because it is beyond our understanding. So when we look up and see Christ in the eyes of those the world has taught us to despise, then we will know our path. As Christians, what is it we value? Where, and with whom, do we spend our energy and time? Because today, Jesus comes bearing a message.